If you’ve lived any amount of time overseas and returned to your home country, you’re likely familiar with reverse culture shock, the feeling that you just…somehow…don’t quite fit in to your old life anymore. It’s a disorienting feeling, and it affects everyone differently. Seeing as how Greg was back in Canada three months ago and Evo just returned from a trip to the USA, we thought’d we discuss this uniquely strange phenomenon, how it affected us, and how we deal with it.
Everyone loves Bangkok and it is indeed a great city. However, that’s not to say everything is worth seeing or doing. For this show we each come up with two items, places, or pastimes that we tell visiting friends and family or even expats new to the city of Angels that they can go ahead and avoid without losing out on everything that Bangkok has to offer.
Happy New Year everyone! The turning over of the calendar is traditionally a time to look forward and hope that the next year will be better than the last one. 2017 will be a big year in Thailand – HM King Rama X will steer the country forward, the push to change elements of Thailand’s important Buddhist sangha is gathering steam, and an election might happen.
Why is that such a big deal? Well, because despite outward appearances and contrary to what a lot of people probably think, Thailand is a military dictatorship. Okay, dictatorship might be a strong word, but the fact of the matter is that the Land of Smiles and one of the world’s busiest tourist destinations has been under military control since the most recent coup of 2014. So if an election happens this year, it will be a big deal.
On this show we (well, Greg, as Evo is traveling) will talk with Pandit about what happens when a particular Buddhist temple becomes really important. So important, in fact, that the government wants to shut it down. In this case it’s the Dhammakaya temple, which has millions of devotees all over Thailand and is led by a rather controversial monk. As of the date of this post, police have been camped outside the temple for several weeks as deadline after deadline for the surrender of the head monk have come and gone and nothing’s happened. It’s kind of like the world’s most boring standoff…but something’s got to give eventually.
At the risk of offending some 70 million Thais, we’re looking at the religious, spiritual, and magical thinking endemic to Thailand. At least from the point of view of a couple of skeptical, non-religious Westerners.
Buddhism isn’t the official religion of Thailand. But the overwhelming majority of people are Buddhist. Still, what you think of as Buddhism may not match up to the reality of the world. This is Theravada Buddhism that draws heavily on Hinduism and has more than a dash of animism mixed in. That makes things rather interesting.
When it comes to character, Bangkok’s got it in spades. It also has characters in droves – people who have been places, eaten things, talked to people, and lived adventures that would make your mother put her hand to her mouth and proclaim, “Oh my” with a frightened little squeak. On this episode of the Bangkok Podcast we’re happy to have one of these epic characters on the show with us – Mr Alan Platt, who, as it happens, has just released a book about his adventures entitled Foreign Fool.
Sex, drugs, and rock n’ roll. Two of those are legal in Bangkok. Sort of. Legal drugs have a dark side, like people dying from overuse. But illegal drugs — some pretty serious ones — might soon be legal in Thailand. What’s the deal with all this back and forth?